Traffic (by Barbara)

Summary:    Starsky & Hutch get themselves in hot water when they fail to follow police procedures.
Category:  Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  Crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  7063


 

PART ONE

“How do people stand this?”

“People do it everyday, Starsk.”

“Well, there must be an accident or something goin’ on up there.”

“Nah.” Hutch said with apathy. “I think this is what they call volume.”

“Volume? What the heck does that mean?”

“Too many cars in too small a space.”

Starsky and Hutch sat on the freeway in Starsky’s gleaming Grand Torino. Hutch wore his sunglasses to shield his eyes from the glare that bounced off the highly polished hood. Traffic was at a standstill only periodically moving several inches at a time. Waves of exhaust fumes rose odorously from the heated pavement.

“I’m veering onto the shoulder.”

“You can’t do that, Starsk. We’re off duty. We’re just regular citizens trying to get home from work like everybody else.”

“You can be a regular citizen. I don’t want to be a regular citizen. Next chance I get, I’m taking the shoulder.” Starsky stuck his entire torso out of the open window to try and assess the situation. “Maybe they need us up there.” He said. “Could be a crime scene or something. Don’t you think?”

Hutch did not respond. Frankly, he was sick of the conversation. Starsky had been griping about the gridlock for the last half hour. Besides, his attention had been averted. His focus was now on the driver of a car in the next lane. It edged just ahead of them and Hutch was sure he recognized the man. He tilted his head to the side and squinted through his RayBans.

“Hutch? Did you hear what I said? Maybe we should investigate.”

Again, Starsky’s quarry was ignored.

“Hey? Are you listening to me?” Starsky jibbed with angst. “Hey, Hutch?”

“Yeah, sure.” The blonde cop finally replied vacantly. He waved his hand in the air as if lazily swatting a fly.

“I can’t take this anymore. I’m makin’ a move to get out of here.”

“Wait a minute, Starsk.”

“Whaaa? Why?”

“Doesn’t that guy up there in the Pinto look like Woody Franks?”

“Which guy?” Starsky said as he strained his neck to see where Hutch was pointing. He too narrowed his eyes in the late afternoon sun.

“That guy in the light blue Pinto up there.”

“It doesn’t look like Woody Franks, it IS Woody Franks.” Starsky confirmed with surprise. “Didn’t we spend most of last Friday booking that dirt bag for armed robbery?”

“We certainly did, Ollie.”

“What the hell is he doing out so soon? He should be in his jammies in a cell somewhere awaiting his hearing.” Starsky commented.

“I’m getting out.” Hutch announced impulsively.

“Right here?”

“Yes, right here. We’re not going anywhere.” He reasoned.

“Oh yeah.”

“I’ll just have a little chat with him.”

“Okay.” Starsky shrugged seemingly satisfied with his partner’s plan.

Woody Franks had spotted the pair miles back. Who wouldn’t spot a bright red Ford Torino with a large boomerang-shaped, white stripe? The vehicle was as subtle as a bee sting. As soon as he saw Starsky & Hutch, he rolled up his window and locked the door. Woody did his best to remain anonymous, but when he saw Hutch get out of the car and step onto the highway that was now a parking lot, he knew his attempts had failed. Woody’s heart began to race. He hunkered down while he watched the cop approach in his rearview mirror.

Hutch didn’t have to go far. His lengthy stride efficiently got him to his destination in a matter of seconds. The other drivers that surrounded the Pinto sat up from their sagged positions. Now they had a show to watch. They were glad to have something to break up the monotony of the jam. Hutch wiped the sides of his mouth with his thumb and forefinger before tapping on the Woody’s window.

“Hey.” Hutch said simply.

He leaned his forearm on the roof of the car.

But, Woody did not acknowledge him. He stared straight ahead – his shoulders raised in a last stitch effort to shield his identity.

“Woody.” Hutch sighed. “You can’t go anywhere. I’m bored. Let’s talk.”

There was still no sign of recognition from Woody.

“Ah come on. It’s hot and I’m tired. I’ll be nice. I just want to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”

Hutch looked back at Starsky who had not moved a centimeter. When Hutch returned his attention to Woody, he was gone. He had slid across to the passenger side and out onto the road. He ran up the shoulder of the highway and down into a ravine.

“Oh man.” Hutch groaned with an irritated gaze toward the heavens. “So much for being off duty.”

The lanky cop bolted into full stride after the man. Starsky, seeing the chase ensue, flipped his car into park and flailed out of the driver’s seat and made his way through the maze of cars. Everyone began honking their horns as if they were spectators at a sporting event. The entire roadway seemed to erupt into a circus of hooting and hollering. Some cheered the policemen while others rooted for the bad guy. As to why they were after the man, they weren’t sure. All they knew was that the abandoned Pinto and Torino would just add to the congestion on the parkway.

Once on the edge of the roadway, Starsky saw Hutch disappear into the brush about a quarter mile up. Starsky’s choppy stride was accompanied by wildly pumping arms. It wasn’t pretty, but as unorthodox as it was, it got him places in a hurry and it definitely had style. Hutch’s gait on the other hand was effortless and as graceful as a gazelle. Both men could run and had speed to burn, but each had totally contrasting techniques.

Woody was young, but out of shape. He gasped as he made his way through the trees. He hoped to get far enough ahead to find a hiding spot. He looked back for Hutch who was a ways behind him but gaining ground. He’d not yet spotted Starsky who was now catching up to his partner.

Woody broke through the under brush as the wooded area ended with a ten foot high fence. He struggled to scale it allowing Hutch to make up some ground.

“WOODY!” He yelled. “Give it up!”

But, Hutch’s warning fell on deaf ears as Woody continued to climb the chain link. He was almost at the top when he felt Hutch grab the bottom of his pant leg and pull. Woody kicked at the detective clipping him on the bridge of his nose. Immediately, Hutch released the man and grabbed his face. Blood gushed and his eyes began to water.

By this time, Starsky had arrived. He leaped at Woody and took hold of the back of his belt with both hands. Placing both feet on the fence he pulled as hard as he could and Woody lost his grip. He fell backward onto his tailbone. Starsky bared-down on top of him and then flipped him over. He pulled Woody off the ground by the front of his shirt and threw him against the fence.

“Spread’em.” He ordered – his lungs rapidly filling and emptying with air.

Hutch remained to the side bent over in obvious discomfort.

“You okay?” Starsky asked as he put his handcuffs on Woody.

“No.”

“What happened?”

“He kicked me.” Hutch mumbled through his hands.

“What?”

“HE KICKED ME!”

“Dat wasn’t very nice.” Starsky quipped with slight amusement. “Why’d you do that, Woody? Hutch had a date tonight. Now he’s going to have to cancel it because of you. Don’t be kicking my partner in the face. You’re going to ruin it!”

“I didn’t do anything.” Woody protested as Starsky twirled him around again.

“Well, for one thing, you broke my partner’s nose.”

“You got no right to chase me like that.”

“We wouldn’t have to chase you if you didn’t run from us. You wouldn’t be running from us if you didn’t do something wrong.”

Hutch had yet to move from his bowed position.

“Don’t bend over like that Hutch. Hold your head back.” Starsky instructed, momentarily taking his attention away from his detainee. “That’s the only way to stop it from bleeding.”

The blonde cop ignored his partner’s first-aid advice, trying desperately to recover from the blow.

“Let’s go.” Starsky said as he took Woody by the scruff of the neck and pushed him in front of him. He gave him a kick in the pants for effect. He looked back at Hutch. “You comin’?”

Still out of breath and still holding his nose, Hutch turned to follow his partner back to the car in defeated silence.

*****

Starsky casually sat in Captain Dobey’s office. He had his feet on the desk as he sipped his morning coffee and nibbled on what looked like a crumpled up honey bun. He was quite content until Dobey entered.

“GET YOU FEET OFF MY DESK, STARSKY!”

“Yes Captain.”

“I thought I said I wanted to see both you and Hutch? Where is he?”

“Oh, he’s coming. He had a little accident.”

“You two are nothing but a whole series of accidents. One after the other.” Dobey grumbled as he took his chair behind his desk.

“We do somethin’ wrong, Cap?”

“There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by that your names don’t end up on my desk with some complain attached to them.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you two chasing down Woody Franks yesterday.”

“He ran. We chased. What’s the problem?”

The conversation was interrupted when Hutch came into the office. Both his eyes were black and a wide white bandage strode across his rather swollen and reddened nose.

“What the hell happened to you?” Dobey asked.

“Oh nothin’.” Hutch exhaled wearily. “My nose was mistaken for a football yesterday, that’s all.”

He closed the door and took a seat next to his partner.

“Is it broken?” Starsky probed – his lack of sympathy was remarkably blatant.

“No. It’s not broken.”

“Are you sure? It looks broken to me. Usually when you get two shiners like that your nose is definitely broken.”

“X-rays show no break, Starsk.” Hutch replied with impatience.

“Well, I’d like to see those x-rays because…”

“STARSKY!” Dobey roared. “I asked you here for a reason not to discuss whether two black eyes constitutes a broken nose!”

“Sorry Captain.” Starsky winced. “What is it? What’s the reason this time? What did we do now?”

“You boys are going to be the death of me.”

Hutch closed his eyes and tenderly patted his bandage with his fingers. He seemed to be detached from the conversation, focusing on his injury instead.

“Are you listening to me Hutchinson, because I don’t want to repeat myself?”

“Yes. I’m listening.” He smiled as best he could. “Go ahead Captain. I’m all ears.”

“Woody Franks is pressing charges against you two for assault and battery.”

“Hutch is the one with the broken nose Captain, not Woody.” Starsky protested pointing to his buddy with his thumb.

“It’s not broken.” Hutch insisted.

“I still say you need to get a second opinion on that. Two black eyes mean you’ve got a broken nose. It’s a medical fact!”

“Oh, and what makes you such an expert?”

“Well, I’ll have you know that…”

“STARSKY!” Dobey blasted again.

“What?”

“Forget about his nose. You two are in serious trouble.”

“Look Captain.” Hutch began lazily. “We were sitting in traffic last night and I saw Franks in a car up ahead. I was a little curious as to why he was on the freeway instead of in the tank. I asked him, very nicely I might add, if I could ask him a few questions. I didn’t threaten him or anything. Next thing you know he takes off. So I chased him down to find out why he was so spooked. If he’s innocent, why did he run? We spent most of last Thursday…”

“No. It was Friday.” Starsky corrected as he chewed noisily on his honey bun. He licked his fingers one-by-one.

“We spent most of last Friday…” Hutch looked over at his partner with indigence. “…booking him for breaking and entering.”

“No. It was armed robbery.”

“Whatever Starsky. What difference does it make? The guy is scum.”

“Sorry. I was just trying to be specific.”

“And that is precisely what this is all about gentlemen.” Dobey said resolutely.

He placed his hands on his desk blotter and laced his fingers. He leered at his detectives from beneath his crinkled brow.

“What’s that?” Starsky asked cautiously as he popped the last of his sweet roll into his mouth.

“How many times have I asked you – no, begged you to fill out accurate reports?”

“Um… lots of times.” Starsky said with a cringe. He swallowed his bite.

“That’s right.”

“So, what’s your point Captain?” Hutch implored.

“Woody Franks was released because of your shoddy paperwork.”

“Shoddy.” Starsky sounded insulted.

“If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times,” Dobey said reaffirmed, “your reports have to be accurate and filled out in triplicate. On time – everyday, not here and there when you feel like it. Woody Franks was out on the streets because you two failed to fill in your badge numbers on his arrest form. His lawyer jumped all over it. You know these guys. They take any loop hole they can.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“NO! I’M NOT KIDDING HUTCHINSON .”

“You know, Captain.” Starsky’s complexion changed from indifference to ire. “Me and Hutch work very hard. We bring in and convict more vermin than the whole department combined. Let the clerks worry about the minor details cause we don’t have time for it. We’re too busy hunting down the rapists and the junkies and the…”

“I don’t want to hear it, Starsky.” Dobey blasted. “The clerks aren’t there when you arrest people, you are. They don’t know the details, you do! Woody Franks is dangerous and now he’s out on the streets because you two refuse to follow police procedures. If he ends up hurting or maybe even killing someone, I’m holding both of you personally responsible.”

“I don’t believe this.” Hutch chuckled with distain. He shook his head and stared at the ceiling.

“Believe it!”

“You know, Captain.” Starsky leaned forward to make his point. “I’m tired of this crap. I’m tired of getting up every morning and running my tail off to bring in the scum of the earth to make this city a safer place. Oh, and it is Captain. This city is safer because of the work Hutch and I do whether we fill out the damned paperwork or not. I refuse to spend all day chasing down criminals and all night filling out forms. Now, you either want Hutch and me on this force or you don’t. End of story.” Starsky’s glare sparkled with intensity.

“You two are the best men I’ve got.” Dobey reconciled.

“Then why all this Captain?” Hutch asked with fatigue. “Why do we always end up like this?”

“Because, I’m your boss. I’m responsible for you two. I have to answer to a boss too you know. I know you men are topnotch but I’m forever getting flack from Internal Affairs.”

“Internal Affairs.”

“Yeah, Starsky. Internal Affairs!”

The three men sat in silence for a moment, seemingly analyzing the discussion. They all tried to cool down.

“Look you two.” Dobey said gently. “Just try to be more careful when you’re filing your reports. That’s all I ask.”

“Are we done?” Starsky said robotically.

“Yes. But, this thing with Woody Franks isn’t over yet. Get out there and follow him. Make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble or you two will find yourselves behind bars for aiding and abetting.”

Starsky and Hutch stood in unison. They gave each other an impatient stare before turning and leaving the office. They made their way through the obstacle course of tables finally settling behind there own desks to regroup.

Hutch sat in his chair as if prepping for a four-course meal. Starsky on the other hand pulled out his chair, spun it backwards and hopped up on it setting his derriere atop the back of the seat. He placed his elbow on his knee and his forefinger knuckle to the middle of his brow. He looked like Rodin’s sculpture “The Thinker.”

“You know, Hutch?”

“What?” He was already preoccupied with organizing the files and forms that littered his desk.

“Do you get the feeling that we’re not appreciated around here?”

“No kidding.”

“You know what I think we should do?”

“No. What.”

“I think you and me oughta go on strike.”

“Yeah. I’ll start painting the placards with slogans.” Hutch sniffed then broadly smiled. “Down with Dobey.”

“No. I’m serious.”

“What good would going on strike do, Starsk?” Hutch said as he continued to shuffle.

“Well, for one thing, we could spend a few days on the beach instead of in this dump.” Starsky proposed, scanning the squad room with disgust.

“What about all the rapists and junkies you were talking about in there? Who’s going to make the streets of Bay City a safe place to be, huh?”

“Let someone else bring’em to justice. We are not the only detectives in this precinct. Seems to me, we can’t do anything right any way. Why are we killing ourselves? Look at your broken nose. You’re a mess. And, do any of these suits care that you got your nose broken in the line of duty? No. They don’t care so long as their precious paperwork is signed, sealed and delivered.”

“It’s not broken, Starsky.”

“Whatever. You still look like you went three rounds with Ali. Look at it. It’s all bashed in and crocked. Dat thing is broken.”

“It’s not that bad.” Hutch defended.

“Hutch. It’s bad.” Starsky replied pointedly.

“Maybe I’m the one that should be pressing charges, huh?” Hutch joked but suddenly realized he may have a point.

“I think that’s a fine idea, Ollie.”

“Let’s go down and fill out a complaint form then shall we?”

“We shall and we will dot every “i” and cross every “t”.” Starsky avowed sarcastically.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

“After you.” Starsky held his hand out to allow Hutch to pass.

“Oh no, after you.” Hutch mocked.

“No, no. I insist. Age before beauty my friend. Age before beauty.”

“Naturally.”

*****

“STARSKY! HUTCHINSON ! GET YOUR BUTTS IN MY OFFICE!”

The duo were chatting by the coffee maker when they got the abrupt summons. Dobey’s eruption made the other cops in the squad room duck for cover. They were just glad they were not at the business end of their boss’s wrath.

“Who us?” Hutch said as he held his hand to his chest innocently. He looked behind him to make sure it was in fact them that Dobey had called for.

“GET IN HERE! NOW!”

“Yes Captain.” Starsky responded.

With a glance of raised eyebrows between the two, Starsky and Hutch entered their superior’s office and closed the door behind them. They knew full well why they’d been asked to have a discussion. They took the same seats they held the day before.

“WHAT IS THIS?” Dobey barked. He was at his desk but still standing. He held a single piece of paper.

“What is what, Captain?”

“Don’t play coy with me, Hutchinson. You know damned well what.”

“Why Captain. I haven’t the foggiest idea of what you are talking about.”

Dobey threw the complaint form at Hutch hitting him in the chest.

“Hey!” Starsky said crossly. “Watch his nose. It’s broken you know.”

Hutch sneered at his partner’s insistence that his nose was broken and then gathered up the file he’d just been struck with.

“Oh this.” He replied mockingly.

“What the hell are you up to?”

“Up to?” Starsky quarried impishly.

“You know what I mean. You filed a complaint against Franks just to get back at me for reaming you out yesterday.”

“We filed a complaint yesterday because I was assaulted!” Hutch blasted back angrily.

“BULL!”

“Look Captain. Starsky and I have had it. It’s time we fought back against this ocean of bureaucracy that seems to make this place tick. Now, we are detectives not secretaries! We can’t do our jobs when half the time is taken up with mountains of paperwork? If we make mistakes it’s from shear fatigue. It has to stop or at least ease up somehow.”

“And just how is this little complaint against Franks going to help with bureaucracy? Huh? You tell me how?” Dobey asked with puzzlement.

“Well,” Starsky answered. “I guess it isn’t.”

“Your damn right it isn’t. Now, stop this nonsense and do your jobs!”

“We thought you’d be on our side, Captain.” Starsky winced.

“I am on your side. When have I ever not been on your side? I spend most of my days defending you two and quite frankly I’m getting pretty tired too. I’ve vetoed these lame charges you’ve laid against Franks. Your broken nose is your own fault Hutchinson .”

“IT’S – NOT – BROKEN!” The blonde cop replied with gritted teeth.

“I – DON’T– CARE!” Dobey stabbed back.

Starsky and Hutch slouched in their seats like teenagers in the principal’s office.

“Now, get out there and stake out Woody Franks before he gets into trouble.”

“What are we supposed to do Captain, baby-sit him?”

“Do whatever you have to do.”

The pair rose from their chairs and headed for the exit.

“And,…” Dobey stopped them for one final statement. They turned to listen. “I want a full report on my desk bright and early tomorrow morning. I want it detailed and filled out in triplicate. Is that understood?”

“Does neatness count?” Starsky cracked.

“YES! NEATNESS COUNTS!”

“Terrific.”

*****

PART TWO

Hutch examined his slightly bent beak in the rearview mirror of his car. He and Starsky had parked themselves in front of 1838 Milton Ave. It was the last known address of Woody Franks. The apartment building was rundown and over run with derelicts. It was exactly noon.

“Does it hurt?” Starsky asked as he crinkled his nose with comic pity.

“Not as much as my ego does.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Hutch continued to study his injury.

“It’s pretty smashed up.” Starsky commented in an attempt to rile his partner. He smirked deviously. “It’s not going to do anything for you, you know.”

“What do you mean by that?” Hutch frowned and stuck out his lower lip but never took his eyes from his reflection.

“I just mean that it’s going to be harder to attract chicks now that your nose is all mangled and twisted. You used to be pretty good lookin.”

“Used to be? Starsky, this face will continue to attract as many women as it always has. Besides, there’s more to me than just me devastating good looks.” Hutch said smugly.

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Like my charm and wit. Not to mention my perfectly conditioned body.” Hutch patted his abs proudly.

“I don’t know.” Starsky said with a playful grimace. He sucked air between his teeth. “You’re gonna need more than that from now on. Once you’ve been maimed like that. You never can tell what you’re going to look like when the swelling finally goes down. You might have to consider plastic surgery.”

“Plastic surgery?” Hutch finally turned his attention from the rearview mirror and looked at his partner with alarm.

“You can’t see your profile.” Starsky joshed. “It’s all flat and well…”

“Well what?” Hutch peered in the mirror again this time turning his face side ways.

“Dat broken nose of yours is gonna play havoc with your love life.”

“For one thing, it’s not broken and for another thing my love life will be just fine, thank you.”

“It’s really unsightly. Let’s face it Hutch, that mug of yours used to be your best feature! It was a beeeudiful ting. Ya big, blonde blintz.”

But, Starsky could not keep up the act any longer. Hutch’s reaction to his tease was just too funny and he had to laugh.

“Ha, ha.” Hutch mocked.

“I had no idea you were so vain.” Starsky said still chuckling.

“I’m not vain.”

“Vanity thy name, partner.”

“Oh yeah, and what’s your excuse?”

“Who me? I don’t have any excuses for anything.”

“Well you should.” Hutch sounded annoyed at his friend’s ribbing.

“Take it easy will’ya. I was just kidding. You’re going to look fine once that break heals.” The curly-haired cop jabbed one last poke.

“Starsky. I’m not going to tell you again.” Hutch posed his hands as if to strangle something. “My nose is NOT broken.”

“Okay then. Whatever you say.” Starsky sighed.

The cops rounded off their banter and focused back on the job at hand – trying to track down Woody Franks. Several moments passed before they started up again.

“You know, Starsk?”

“No. What.”

“Maybe Dobey’s right.”

“About what?”

“Maybe we should just deal with all the junk – the forms and files. I mean every job has its ups and downs, right?” Hutch reasoned.

“We’ve had more downs than ups, Hutch. Your broken nose is just one in an endless series of misfortunes for you and me!”

“Oh. I don’t know. I’d say the last eight years have been the best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.”

“No?”

“No.” Hutch replied firmly.

“Thats because you get to spend every waking hour with me.” Starsky gloated.

“Yeah!” Hutch’s confirmation dripped with sarcasm. “That’s it. Hour after hour after hour…”

“Speaking of waking hours.” Starsky said as he shifted mental gears. “Did you manage to keep your date with Cindy last night?”

“Yeah. She came over to my place. She was my nurse.” Hutch grinned wickedly.

“Did you get to play doctor?”

“Nope. I was the patient.”

“Mmmm, sounds like fun.

“Oh, it was Starsk. It was.”

“Did she take your blood pressure?”

“Yes sir. She put me through a whole battery of vigorous tests. It was exhausting.”

“You poor thing. Did you pass?”

“With flying colors.”

“I guess I was wrong about that banged up face of yours.”

“Like I said buddy. It’s the whole Hutchinson package that the ladies love.”

After a brief chortle, the men again sat quietly perusing the neighborhood for any sign of Woody. Starsky’s stomach rumbled and churned. It was so loud it distracted Hutch from his scanning. He looked over at his partner blankly.

“Hungry?”

“Well, it is lunch time…”

Just as Starsky was about to expound on his lack of breakfast, the dispatcher’s voice crackled through their police radio.

“Zebra Three. There is a two-eleven in progress. At Leyland and Cherokee. Shots fired.”

Starsky grabbed the hand set as Hutch started the engine and squealed away from the curb.

“This is Zebra Three. We’ve got it.”

“Let’s hope we don’t run into our friend Woody or Dobey’s going to have our heads.” Hutch said as he sharply turned the corner.

“Really.”

Starsky opened his window and place the cherry atop the car. Then he flipped the siren on and the two sped toward the crime scene.

*****

Gunfire rang through the streets. A myriad of black and white police cars surrounded the tiny corner store like a herd of zebras at a watering hole. The cops had the prep trapped as Starsky and Hutch screeched to a smoky halt just outside the circle. The smell of burnt rubber wafted through the air like a direct hit from a skunk.

Hutch pulled his weapon as he exited the driver’s seat and Starsky grabbed his shotgun from the back. The pair, in a crouch, ran toward the Malay and hunkered down behind one of the cars along side several colleagues.

“What’s the scoop, Marty?” Hutch asked slightly out of breath.

“Well, speak of the devil.” The uniformed officer quipped.

“Speak of the devil? What do you mean?”

“Whoever is in there wants to talk to you, Hutch.”

The partners stared at each other. They knew who it was.

“No kidding.” Hutch replied as he peeked over the hood. “Well, aren’t I popular.”

“What happened to your nose?” Marty asked casually as if he were at a meet-and-greet instead of a shoot out.

“Aaah, I cut myself shaving.”

“Don’t know how to tell you this, but you missed.” The policeman jested.

“Can’t put anything by you Marty.” Hutch said as he jimmied over beside his partner. “What should we do Starsk?”

“WE? He wants to talk to YOU not me.”

“I knew I could depend on you.”

“Anytime.”

Yet another round of shots split the air like Fourth of July fireworks. It made everyone take cover.

“I NEED TO SPEAK TO DETECTIVE HUTCHINSON ! NOW!” Came a frantic voice from within the store. “YOU’VE GOT FIVE MINUTES. AFTER THAT NO ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE!”

“Sounds like he means business, Hutch.” Starsky said from his seated position on the asphalt. “You better get in there.”

“You know Starsky? Sometimes you’re loyalty and friendship are overwhelming. It warms my heart.”

“I try.”

“Can you at least get around back and bust in on this guy before he decides to kill me?” Hutch implored with irritation.

“Sure.” Starsky shrugged lackadaisically. “I can do that.”

“I knew you could partner. I knew you could.”

“Hey Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“Try not to let him break anything else okay. You can’t afford it.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Hutch slowly rose as comrades and a crowd of pedestrians looked on. He resembled a lighthouse. His flaxen hair shone like a beacon in the mid morning sunshine as he stood alone amidst the uneasy congregation of flesh and steel. Silence fell over the scene. Only the ticking of flashing lights echoed. Anticipation was as thick as vanilla icing.

Hutch held up his hands and moved out into the open. With all attention on the shiny detective, Starsky shuffled along the pavement using each car as camouflage. His goal was to reach the back entrance of the shop. Hopefully, surprise would be on their side and this episode could be thwarted without anyone getting hurt.

“Here I am Franks!” Hutch announced. “I’m coming in. Hold your fire.”

Hutch began to walk apprehensively toward the open front door. He knew Woody Franks was unstable and Hutch was concerned he might spook yet again. He continued to keep his hands up in an effort to ease his nemesis.

The opening to the shop looked like a cave. Inside was darkness, contrasted by the gleam of daylight. Hutch entered the small variety store and took a few seconds to get his eyes accustomed to the light. The coolness of the place engulfed him.

“Is that you Woody?” Hutch asked.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

Everything came into focus. Woody Franks stood several yards in front of Hutch. He used a young woman as a shield holding her around the neck and a gun pointed at her cheek. Several others lay flat on the floor. Woody seemed taken aback when he saw the damage he’d done to Hutch’s face.

“Take it easy now.” Hutch negotiated. “I’m here, now what exactly do you want?”

“It’s very simple. I’ll drop the charges against you if you get me out of this.”

“Well, you got yourself into it Woody. Can’t expect me to do everything.”

“Why not?”

“Because. It just doesn’t work that way.”

“I’m warning you. I’ll blow everyone away including myself!”

Woody’s threat made the girl scream. Her outburst only made his grip tighten against her throat.

“You don’t want to do that? You’re no murderer.” Hutch stalled as he scanned the background for his partner.

“There’s a first time for everything, Hutchinson.”

“Look. I’ll stay here with you. I’ll be your hostage. Let everyone else go and then we’ll talk. I promise, I’ll get you out of this somehow. But, you have to let everyone go right now or the deal’s off.”

Hutch’s electric blue gaze was unwavering. He could see Woody ponder his offer. But, just as he seemed to come to a decision, Starsky barreled through the back door and fired a single round into the ceiling.

“DROP IT!” He ordered.

Startled and disoriented Woody began firing wildly. He let go of the girl he had a choke hold on and everyone took cover from the barrage of bullets. One struck Hutch above the elbow and he fell to the ground in agony.

“HUTCH!” Starsky shouted again.

Woody scrambled to the downed cop and squared himself behind him. He pulled Hutch to his feet and now used him to screen against Starsky’s ambush.

“This just isn’t my week.” Hutch snarled through the pain that throbbed up his arm to his shoulder.

“NO! YOU HOLD IT STARSKY!” Woody blasted. “If you don’t want a dead partner on your hands you’ll let me pass.”

Starsky lasered a fiery stare at Franks. He wasn’t sure what to do.

“It’s okay Starsk.” Hutch panted. “Let us go.”

“You heard him.” Woody ordered. “Put down your gun and let us out of here.”

Hutch threw an assured look into his partner’s eyes. They didn’t need to speak to communicate. A simple raised eyebrow was enough. With eight years under their belts it didn’t take much for the men to understand each other. Starsky put down his rifle and stepped aside.

“Smart boy.” Woody said – his adrenaline pumped. “Now get one of those lackeys out there to bring his car around.”

“I’ll get it.” Starsky offered.

“NO!” Woody seemed to panic. “DON’T MOVE!”

“Okay, okay. Take it easy.”

“I’ll ask Woody?” Hutch said as he tried to ignore the trauma of his wound.

“Yeah, you do it Hutchinson. You do it.”

Starsky and Hutch continued to communicate through body language and eye contact.

Starsky’s expression was that of concern along with a smidge of craftiness as to how to get Hutch free from the mad man who stood before him. Hutch on the other hand, sent a message of calm to his partner. It affirmed that he was all right and to not do anything rash in order to protect the civilians trapped in the store.

“MARTY?” Hutch shouted.

He got no answer. The scene was silent.

“MARTY? IT’S HUTCH? CAN YOU HEAR ME?”

“YEAH! I HEAR YOU HUTCH.”

“BRING MY CAR AROUND BACK. THEN CLEAR THE ALLEY!”

Marty did not reply but rather spared no time in running to Hutch’s car. The sound of the Ford was unmistakable as it creaked through the crowd to the corner and up next to the back entrance of the store. The car door slammed and Marty directed everyone from the alley.

“IT’S ALL YOURS HUTCH!”

With his left arm firmly clasped around Hutch’s neck and his gun pressed against his temple, Woody sidled by Starsky. Hutch could sense that his partner might try to jump Woody as they made their way out the back. With an unblinking stare he called him off. He shook his head slightly and Starsky held off his counter attack.

“Don’t forget to fill in your badge number when you’re making out your report on this one okay, partner.” Hutch said as he passed. “Don’t leave out any important details.”

“Hutch?”

“It’s okay. I’m alright.”

Starsky watched helplessly as Franks shoved Hutch into the driver’s seat. With his gun aimed at the blonde cop, Woody circled around to the passenger side and got in. Hutch backed up, and drove away.

*****

Despite having a .352 Magnum pointed at his head, Hutch knew he would be fine. But, that didn’t make his arm any less painful. It was a minor flesh wound but it felt like someone was using a blowtorch on it. It hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. It was distracting. At least it diverted his attention from the sting of his nose.

“Where are we going, Woody?” Hutch asked as he drove.

“Just keep driving.”

“You know they’ll catch up. You know they’re going to follow us. That’s their job.”

“SHUT UP!” Woody sounded terrified and desperate. A dangerous combination.

“Why don’t I take you to my apartment.” Hutch suggested cheerfully. “We can sit and have a beer and talk this whole thing over.”

“I SAID SHUT UP.”

“Okay, okay. I was just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help, Hutchinson.”

“Could have fooled me.”

They continued on. Hutch looked in the rearview mirror. He thought he’d see Starsky on his tail but he was nowhere in sight. He wondered where he was. He returned his eyes to the road ahead. Rush hour was just starting to pick up.

“Should I head for the border?” Hutch offered.

“Just shut up and let me think damn it!” Woody hissed.

Hutch peered at his side mirror again and finally saw Starsky. He was in a three cars back in a black and white, using the traffic as cover. Woody was preoccupied with trying to figure out how to escape the situation.

“It’s about time.” Hutch mumbled at his partner.

“What?”

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

Hutch changed lanes to approach the on ramp to the highway.

“Where are you going?” Woody asked as his grip on the gun tightened.

“I don’t know. Nowhere. You said drive. So I’m driving.”

“Well don’t get on the highway.”

“Why not?”

But it was too late. They were already half way up the ramp and starting to merge. Hutch checked for his partner and was relieved to see him take the ramp as well. He knew the roadway would soon come to a standstill. That was when he hoped Starsky would make his move. When the flow began to slow, Hutch decided to put his thespian skills to work.

“Ah, Woody?” He said with a wince.

He brought the car to a stop as gridlock began its chokehold on the highway as it did everyday at this time.

“I’m not feeling so good. I feel sick.”

“Don’t pass out on me now, Hutchinson .”

“My arm it’s… I think I’m going to…” Hutch sputtered.

Hutch rolled his eyes back into his head and started to gasp for air. Then he let out a muffled groan and slumped in his seat. Woody grabbed the detective’s jacket by the shoulder and shook him violently.

“Hey! Wake up! Hutchinson! Wake up!”

But, Hutch didn’t budge. By this time he hoped Starsky was on foot and making his way through the bumper-to-bumper cars to save the day. He had to keep up the charade though and hope for the best. He decided to play dead for as long as possible.

Panicked and as skittish as a homeless squirrel, Woody gave up on Hutch. He squirmed out of the car and onto the highway not far from where he’d been arrested several days before. He did not see Starsky racing up the middle of the freeway, his feet moving so fast they were a blur. He ran with his gun above his head.

“WOOOODDDDEEEEE!” He yelled as he began to make up ground.

As he passed Hutch he stopped momentarily to peer in the driver side window to check on his partner. He saw him slumped in his seat. It made his heart flutter with concern.

“Hutch? You okay? Hey Hutch?” Starsky said frantically.

“Yep. I’m fine.” Hutch replied as he struggled to prop himself up behind the wheel. “What took you so long?”

“I thought you were dead.” Starsky puffed.

“Nope. Just acting.”

“But, you’re bleeding.”

“I’m a good actor.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot. Nice one.”

“I thought so.” Hutch grinned. “Now get after him. He’s getting away, Starsk.”

“Huh? Oh geez.” Starsky regained focus. “You stay put.”

“I intend to.”

Starsky took off after Woody who was now almost out of sight. Again he dodged into a wooded patch and disappeared. Undaunted, the curly-haired cop kept up the chase as Hutch pulled his car onto the shoulder. He watched his partner disappear into the bush.

*****

EPILOGUE

“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU TWO?” Dobey blasted as his detectives finally reported for work the next morning.

Hutch’s arm was in a sling and his nose still displayed the after effects of his boot to the face. He felt like he’d been in a championship rugby match. Starsky too, donned a bandage over the bridge of his nose. Both his eyes were as black as motor oil.

“Woody Franks held up a variety store and took me hostage yesterday Captain. Didn’t you hear?” Hutch explained with perplexity.

“Yeah. I heard.”

“Well, thanks for the concern. I could have been killed!”

“You look fine to me, Hutchinson.” Dobey shrugged unsympathetically.

“Well, I got shot!” Hutch fired back. “My arm isn’t in a sling so I can start a fashion trend you know.”

“You’ll be okay.”

“I’m NOT okay. It hurts.”

“And, what’s your excuse Starsky?” Dobey smirked at the pair’s disheveled appearance.

“I had a head on collision with a tree.”

“Is your nose broken?”

“No. It’s not broken.”

“Sure looks broken, Starsk.” Hutch interjected. “Two black eyes like that means your nose is definitely broken. Didn’t you know that?”

“Oh shut up.”

The pair shuffled to their desks and took their seats. Even though they had finally gotten Woody Franks behind bars they couldn’t have done it with more difficulty. Starsky and Hutch were tired and battle weary. They stared lazily at each other without a word. They didn’t need to use any words to describe their feeling of woe. They then shifted their attention to the mountain of papers that were stacked in front of them like a field of ant hills.

“Hey!” Dobey shouted from the entrance of his office. “I need that report on your little escapade yesterday Hutchinson and I need it now! And make sure is perfect, got me? I need yours too Starsky – filled out in triplicate.”

The detectives again leered at each other with desperate fatigue.

“Starsk?” Hutch sighed.

“Umm?”

“Do you ever get the feeling that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?”

“Yeah. I’m getting that feeling right now.”

“Well, I guess we better get started huh?”

“You go ahead.” Starsky cringed. “I’m in too much pain to type.”

“You’re in too much pain?” Hutch scoffed. “What about me? I’m the one with the shot up arm and broken nose.”

“I thought you said it wasn’t broken.”

“I changed my mind.”

***The End***

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